Clayton Schools addressing learning loss in new AIR program

Clayton County launches "AIR" program to address COVID-19 learning loss.

Clayton County launches "AIR" program to address COVID-19 learning loss.

Clayton County is adding another day of school for students hoping to catch up on what they didn’t learn during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a new program called AIR, or Actions Intended for Results, the district will offer math, reading and language arts classes on Saturdays beginning at the end of next month.

The idea is to give students struggling with school because of learning gaps created during the pandemic more face-to-face instruction in an effort to reverse learning losses, district leaders said. Well-performing students also can attend and use the classes as an opportunity to build on their education.

“The rational behind AIR ... is to focus on getting our young people back to where they were pre-pandemic and then moving them beyond so that they can reach levels of proficiency as they continue to move forward in our school system,” Valya Lee, a program consultant, told the Clayton Board of Education on Monday.

Clayton County was one of the last districts in metro Atlanta to fully return to face-to-face, in-school instruction during the pandemic. Some elementary students went back to in-class learning in the spring of 2021 after about a year of virtual education. The county’s middle schoolers and high schoolers did not return to brick-and-mortar buildings until August 2021.

Clayton leaders said they kept schools virtual longer in part because of the higher percentage of Black and Hispanic students, who were disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus.

While the AIR program is open to everyone, principals and school leaders will encourage specific students based on Georgia Milestone and Measures of Academic Measures, or MAP, scores, said Tim Guiney, a chief academic officer for Clayton Schools. The district also is looking for teachers and peer tutors to help support the program.

“It will also be of great benefit to those (peer) students who are working the program,” Guiney said. “Not only will they make money, they will have a great job experience and we hope that some of them ... will decide to become teachers right here in Clayton County Public Schools.”

The first classes begin for high schoolers on Oct. 28, with elementary and middle schoolers starting Nov. 4. Classes will end on March 9. Registration for the program is open until Friday.